Finding the Right Destination: Vision, and Direction

On Sunday we are launching a new series at the church.1145632_61514054

We are going to be asking a key question:

Where are our lives headed?

This is important because if we don’t examine our destination, time can slide by and we can end up saying, “How did we get here”. The point is that if we want to have an impact in this world, it comes by aligning the direction of our lives with God’s direction. Because my honest belief is this: we don’t ever drift into making a difference. So we need to examine where our lives are heading, and live with intention.

So we have been wrestling, asking, and discerning where God is leading us? What has he been birthing in us? What are we called to do?

And these are crucial questions for everyone of us to be asking. Because we don’t drift into making a difference. Vague intentions often lead to a lack of action.  Jesus though came with a clear mission, and vision of what he was going to do. He summarized it in the “Good News”, he lived it out and shared it with everyone. Jesus had no ambiguity in what he was doing. This is what we are going to be examining on Sunday what Jesus’ calling was, and still is. Through this we can discover how we fit into Jesus’ calling on earth.

So I think it’s important for everyone to be asking the question, “Jesus, where are you leading me?” And this is what we are doing on Sunday, just corporately as a community. 

So that’s where we are going on Sunday. The question I have for you is simple. Where is God leading you? In life? In your church? In work? In your family? Where is he leading you?

It is too easy to continue on a direction, without thinking about the destination. So talk with God about where he would have you go, about the next steps, about what he would have you do. Because the essence of faith is to follow, but to do that we have to be led. So why not spend some time with Jesus talking with him about following, and being led. And come Sunday that’s what we are talking about too.


Jesus, Missional, and Cultural Influence

In current Christian circles there is a buzz word called “missional”. It’s the new word. A few years ago it was “emerging” and “postmodern” now it’s missional. And in a few years it will be something different.

I have no problem with the word, concept, or theology. In fact, I think it’s necessary and I even wrote my thesis on it. The basic idea is that Christians need to be partnering with God in making disciples, changing the world, and being a blessing to those around us. God is already active in the world, and we are called to join him in his activity. This is all good stuff, true stuff, and stuff that I preach consistently.

My worry is that all this good theology gets mixed with a bad economy and worldview of our culture. What happens is our cultural worldview of economics of production, exportation, and efficiency starts to influence our theology and activity. All of a sudden the missional work of the church can be co-opted by the consumeristic economy around us. We start up missional programs to ensure we’re making disciples and cutting edge. We start seeking how to most efficiently impact the community around us, taking our cues from books, conferences, and even blog posts. What can subtly happen is that, while we talk about being missional, we end up focusing on efficiency, metrics, individual decisions, and products.

Again, in general, none of these things are wrong, but when combined with theology they move against the grain of God.

The rhythm of God isn’t primarily about efficiency but faithfulness;

it isn’t about business metrics but Kingdom ethics;

it isn’t about getting people to make decisions about Christ but to be transformed into disciples of Christ;

it isn’t about products but people loved by God

So I’m in no way against leadership, business, and the seven habits of highly effective people. I read all of this type of thing, have been positively influenced by it. I just want to make sure that theology is dictating our business, leadership, and systems, not the other way around. I just want to ensure that while we are talking about being on mission and making disciples we are into it for the long haul and not for a flash in the pan. Because making disciples isn’t about efficiency it is about commitment and longevity. Jesus took three years to make 12 disciples. He lived life with them, he listened to them, cared for them, saw them fail and falter, and even saw one turn his back and leave him. This is the way we make disciples and are missional: in messy, convoluted, long, sometimes in-efficient, relationships where God is moving and working.

So yes be efficient, be missional, make disciples. Just make sure that how you do is influenced more by Jesus than anything else.

Professional Dream Killers

The reality is some people feel their job is to be professional dream killers. These are people who when you share the difference your called to make often start with a statement like this: “Let me be the Devil’s advocate; Let’s bring this back to reality; We don’t deal in dreams but in facts” etc…

 The reality is as soon as you start to try to make a difference someone will start to try to stop it. They’ll say this is reality, this has been tried before, it can’t be done, you’re not the right person, or you’re not qualified. You might have a professional dream killer in your office, family, board, committee, or even church. The question is how do you overcome the obstacles they put in your place? What is the right way to move forward? How do you overcome the questions when they stop being “nice, helpful questions” to purpose hurtful and destructive comments?

Because the truth is, if you have ever tried to follow God’s dream for your life – you have encountered challenge, obstacles, and hurtful people. You have had to face professional dream killers. So how do you overcome it? What has helped you? What hasn’t worked?

And then on Sunday we are going to find out how Nehemiah overcame his own professional dream killers. We’ll see how he both met their challenges and overcame them. Because if we want to reach our God-given visions, we’re going to have to learn how to overcome obstacles and opposition. But that’s why God’s calling you to make a difference, not because it’s easy but because it’s worthwhile…

How to Launch a Vision

So on Sunday we talked about the practical steps Nehemiah takes to see his vision start to come to fruition. We see the steps he takes that leads to action, progress, and development. We came away with three steps:

  • Deal with reality
  • Share with clarity
  • Own your responsibility

Nehemiah begins by dealing with reality. He shows up in Jerusalem and doesn’t assume he knows the people, place, or process to build the wall. Instead he waits and inspects the wall before going public with the vision. Because a vision shared prematurely dies quickly. A vision that isn’t connected to reality doesn’t succeed. So he adjusts his plans and figures out how to the build the wall not in theory but in practice. So he first deals with reality before sharing publicly.

He then shares his vision, but he shares it with clarity in 4 steps. He says what the problem is, what the solution is, why it needs to be done, and why the timing is right. Each of these steps leads to clarity and then commitment on behalf of the people. He shares that the problem is the walls are burnt and down, that the solution is to build the walls, that it needs to be done because they are a disgrace, but it’s the right time because God is with them at this very moment. So they all agree and begin to build the wall.

The last thing Nehemiah does is he owns his personal responsibility in the vision. He consistently speaks of “we” rather than “they”. He doesnt’ show up and give the city officials the plan, resources, and letters and then say “Now you build the wall”. No, he knows that if God has given him the vision, he is to be part of carrying it out. Too often people get a vision and then expect their church, their pastor, or their little committee to program it, run it, and own it. The truth is we need to personally own and be responsible for what God gives us. We can’t expect others to risk or give more than we are personally willing to give or risk.

So with Nehemiah we see him deal with reality, share with clarity, and own his personal responsibility. And when he takes these steps his vision launches and begins to succeed. So in our own personal visions, dreams, or desires there is a lot we can take away. We need to deal with the reality of where our family, business, or ministry is at. We need to share with clarity why change needs to happen. And we need to own our personal part in the whole vision. Those are the steps Nehemiah takes, and I believe there is wisdom in following his model. Because at the end of the story Nehemiah gets the wall built, a people restored, and a future is renewed. And I think we’d all like to live a life with that type of legacy and meaning…

Adult Discussion Questions: Has God given you something to live for? If not yet, how can you find out. If so, what is the reality you are dealing with? What is the problem, the solution, why it needs to be done, and why this is the right timing? How have you seen people’s visions “compete” before? How can we ensure our personal visions don’t ever compete but complete God’s overall design? How much are you personally willing to give for your vision?

Challenge This Week: Deal with Reality – Inspect the Walls of your vision

Learning to Launch Well

This Sunday we are going to be looking at something very practical. When God gives you something to live for ~ how do you actually go about doing it? Let’s say like Nehemiah you’ve been given a vision, a passion, or a burden for something. You’ve been waiting, praying, and preparing and the door to walk forward opens. So you start to tentatively believe and move forward to God’s vision for your life. What do you practically do to ensure you’ll succeed?

Because the truth is, it can be both exciting and terrifying to start to try to make a difference. When you start to step out into God’s dream for your life you can be worried it will falter, you can reach opposition, and you can be unsure of the next steps. So on Sunday we are going to look at the steps Nehemiah takes and how they relate to our own personal lives. How if you want to start a ministry, launch a business, save a relationship, we can discover some practical steps to moving forward. And then next week we’re looking at how to deal with opposition. But for this week we’re going to look at the steps to take to launch a vision well.

But before we get there if you were to decide on a few next steps for yourself personally what would they be? If you were to launch that business, that ministry, to start that new job or calling, what might some of your initial thoughts be? Think about those and then come Sunday we’ll see if they are similar to the steps of Nehemiah…

To catch up on the series before Sunday download all the sermons here.

Finding a Vision Worth Chasing

On Sunday we looked at how Nehemiah found a vision worth chasing. He wants to build the wall of Jerusalem, to heal a people, and to bring dignity back to the land. I think many of us want similar visions. We might not want to build a wall but we want to do something lasting, that has a legacy, and changes lives. So the question is where do you begin? How do you find God’s vision that’s specific to you?

Well I think the answer is simple. You start praying and paying attention. The first step is to pray. Start asking God to show you where your life should be going. Start asking God to reveal to you what you should be giving your life to and then start looking. But just don’t think of what you want to get rid of, think of what you want to create. Peter Senge writes, “Most adults have little sense of real vision. We have goals and objectives, but these are not visions. When asked what they want many adults will say what they want to get rid of. They’d like a better job – that is, they’d like to get rid of the boring job they have”. The point is Nehemiah didn’t want to just get rid of his job, he wanted to give himself to creating a whole people. Nehemiah wanted to be part of creating something, not just getting rid of something in his life. Nehemiah was given a burden to change the state of Israel. And this is often how visions begin: as burdens.

So start paying attention to your feelings and thoughts. Are there things that grab your heart, break your heart, that you want to create, or stir your desires? Here are some of the questions I ask:

  • What passions has God give me?
  • When I look out in my life what grabs me?
  • If I could be doing something what would it be?
  • What do I want to change around me?

Who knows what God might want  to do with you. Maybe it’s for you to give your time and energy to save your marriage, to build a new business that values people and the planet, maybe it’s to start a ministry, maybe it’s to make people whole and healthy, maybe it’s to launch your kids well. The possibilities are endless, but ask God what do you want to create through with me.

Donald Miller writes this, “The ambitions we have will become the stories we live. If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want. If we don’t want anything we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories. If it won’t work in a story, it won’t work in life.”

So what ambitions do you have? What type of life, community, family, neighborhood, or church do you want to create?

Spend time today with God asking him to reveal to you where your time and energy should go. And start paying attention to yourself because God has designed you with a specific purpose, passions, and plan. So what excites you, what burdens you, what change do you want to see? What do you want in life? And I hope it isn’t just a Roomba vacuum cleaner…..

Chasing Cars…Promotions…and Power

On Sunday I started a brand new series called “Where Is Your Story Going?” The point of this series is to examine where our lives are headed, and how we can discover a new vision for our lives.

I began sharing this quote from Donald Miller, focusing on the last phrase:

If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers. You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen. The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, expect you’d feel robbed and want your money back. Nobody cries at the end of the movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.  But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful”

Miller is right that we do spend years actually living those stories. So for the next six weeks we are going to discover, through following Nehemiah, how to live different stories, how to live better stories, and how to live lives with meaning, passion, purpose, and vision.

So on Sunday we shared from Nehemiah 1 examining how Nehemiah was given a vision to build the wall in Israel. This wasn’t just a vision about brick and mortar but about restoring a people and giving hope. This is a vision God gives to Nehemiah. It’s a vision to change lives, to change a country, and change a people.

These are the types of visions that God wants to give us, to give to you. Desires to change our marriages, ministries, workplaces, communities, companies, and even countries.

And as we work through this sermon series we’ll look at the next steps to take to pursue a vision, how you overcome obstacles and hurtful people, and how to fulfill God’s vision for your life. But we closed with this challenge to spend time this week and see where is your life going? To spend time praying asking God to give you a vision like he gave Nehemiah. Toask God, “ are you chasing after Volvo’s or God’s dreams for you?”

So today do just that. Spend some time with God, ask him where your life is going; ask him where he would have it go? And then in a few days I’ll post some more thoughts on how to discover God’s vision for your life…

Adult Discussion Questions: What did you think of Donald Miller’s quote? Where is your life, or story, going? Are you chasing after something of value and meaning or not? Has God given you a passion, burden, or desire for something greater like Nehemiah? What is it? Or how can you discover it? Spend some time this week talking to God about where your life is going

Discussion Questions for Families: Spend some time sharing with your family what is worth living for. Ask your kids what some people live for (money, fame, to be cool, to be strong). Ask them what they think they should be living for. Share with them some of what you want to live for.

Challenge for this Week: To ask God to give you a vision to live for.

Welcome to Leadership…

Being a leader is a calling. And it is a deep calling. It’s not always easy. But oftentimes the most difficult of paths, are the most worthwhile. But here is the interesting thing about leadership…we’re all leaders.

Yes we are all leaders to some extent. Leadership is influence over others, so the point isn’t whether or not you have it, but how you are using it. My guess is that you have influence with someone in your life whether that be a child, spouse, co-worker, or a friend. So the big question then isn’t if you are a leader but are you leading well?

I bet if you look back on your life some of the biggest leaders in your life we’re regular everyday people who shaped you. They were your parents, your coach, a teacher, a friend, a boss, and maybe even a pastor. So the question I really want to pursue and dive into is, how do we become the type of leaders that leave lasting influence?

That’s really what I want to look at on Monday night here at the church. We are going to be a having a night focusing on building and developing our influence and leadership. Since I believe leadership is something we all do, it’s open to everyone: business people, homemakers, retirees, students, and regular every-bodies. So it’s open to you. Just let me know if you’re interested in coming.  It starts at 7.

And then this week as your interacting with friends, family, and neighbors ask yourself: what kind of legacy am I leaving? What kind of influence and impact?

My guess is…is that if you ask that question you’re on the right path…